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The whole town and his wife seems to be using whey protein.

Whey protein isolate – everybody knows – works; you know it works. It is the best protein for improving body composition (reducing fat while improving lean mass)! Or is it really?!

Whey protein isolate may be the best protein for you in most instances, that may not be the case always! Depending on your fitness goal, whey protein concentrate (and, even casein!) can sometime give whey isolate a run for its money. How is that?!

Well, read on to find out!

However, before we get into the nitty-gritty of which type of whey will best serve your purpose, let us get to know a bit more about why you should supplement with whey, in the first place.


Why should I take whey supplements?

Resistance training causes increase in muscle mass. This is due to increased muscle protein synthesis (MPS) that resistance training induces (Hulmi et al., 2009; Hakkinen et al., 2001; Hulmi et al., 2007). However, intense workouts alone are not enough to keep packing on lean muscle mass; you have to ‘stay anabolic’ most of the time to be able to keep that MPS working for you.

Without complicating matters, here’s a look at how resistance training increases lean muscle mass: a resistance training session causes muscle protein breakdown. This is then followed by repair of the damaged muscle tissue so that the muscles come out stronger the next time you hit the weights. For the muscles to get stronger, however, proteins ingestion (over and above normal needs) is crucial. Needless to say, the process of repair will suffer if you aren’t loading up on proteins.

That resistance training combined with protein supplementation causes muscle hypertrophy is well-documented (Moore et al., 2009; Hulmi et al., 2009; Cribb, Williams, Carey, & Hayes, 2006).  Ingestion of a whey protein supplement either immediately before or after a training session is – considered by some – to be the best for this purpose; also whey increases muscle protein turnover like no other protein. Furthermore, whey protein seems to work equally well in women as well (Josse, Tang, Tarnopolsky, & Phillips, 2010).

Another benefit of supplementing with whey is, improved post-workout recovery  This is likely due to the ‘anti-catabolic’ action of essential amino acids (Bird, Tarpenning, & Marino, 2006; Hoffman et al., 2010; Etheridge, Philp, & Watt, 2008).


What is Whey Protein?

You most likely know that whey is one of the 2 milk proteins – the other being casein. Casein is the more abundant of the two and it is casein that gives milk that white colour. In commercially available cow’s milk, 20% of protein is whey while the rest of it is casein (Hulmi, Lockwood, & Stout, 2010; Ha & Zemel, 2003; Etzel, 2004; Krissansen, 2007).

Whey is produced in large amounts as a by-product in the cheese industry. However, this whey has loads of fat, milk sugar (lactose) and salts in it and is not suitable for improving body composition.

During the process of whey purification, whey concentrate and isolate are produced sequentially. During the initial steps, larger molecules are separated out resulting in formation of whey concentrate. These larger molecules are proteins, lactose, immunoglobulins, amongst other less important ones. To produce whey isolate, cheese whey is passed through an ultrafiltration process (ion exchange or other methods). The ultra membrane filters fat, milk sugar (lactose), salts and other unwanted ingredients leaving behind a pure form of whey (Barile et al., 2009).

Hydrolysates, on the other hand, are formulations where large protein molecules are broken down into smaller fragments. The hypothesis is that this might further increase the rate of absorption of whey. However, this might not be totally true and hydrolysates may not offer much of an advantage over isolates or concentrates.


Types of Whey Protein

Whey is available commercially as either isolate or concentrate. ‘So, what’s the difference between them and which one should I be using’, you might want to ask?

The main difference between the two is the quality and the amount of protein content – isolate is purer and thus will contain almost 100% protein (well, 90-94% to be precise) while whey concentrate will contain protein ranging from 70-85%.

‘Well, that settles it – I am going with whey isolate!’, you might say. Hang on, not so fast! There is more to it than just protein content.


Comparing Whey Isolate and Whey Concentrate

Since whey isolate is higher in protein content, has a better amino acid ratio and thus bioavailability, it is absorbed into your system way quicker than whey concentrate (or any other protein, for that matter). That makes whey isolate the ideal post-exercise anabolic drink (Hulmi et al., 2009). Some researchers have suggested taking whey protein isolate before workouts as well in addition to your routine post-workout shake for maximum benefits (Esmark et al., 2001; Cribb & Hayes, 2006). Quicker absorption will mean almost instantaneous rise in blood amino acids which are then taken up by ‘hungry muscles’.

Having said that, the need for immediate post-workout protein supplementation in now being increasingly questioned (more below).

High protein content and higher quality of protein, however, that does not clinch the deal in favour of whey isolate. Concentrate has something up its sleeve that will make sit up and take notice!

As stated earlier, in comparison to isolate, whey protein concentrate will contain lesser amount of protein (in the range of 70-85%). However, somewhat similar to casein, whey protein concentrate will get absorbed slowly – this helps you stay anabolic for longer! Slower absorption also helps with absorption of other important nutrients from food like calcium. Not a lot of people know this but calcium plays an important role in causing fat loss (in addition to keeping your bones healthy)! Add to that the added benefit of appetite suppression for longer and casein suddenly become an important tool for your fat-loss goals or intermittent-fasting health journey…

Furthermore, whey protein concentrate is loaded with immunoglobulins – this helps boost your immune system and therefore may be beneficial in dealing with the intense stresses of training (especially if you happen to overtrain!).


Whey Isolate

Pros

    • pure; contains 90-94% protein!
    • purity means that it is great for gaining / maintaining lean mass while getting ripped (ideal when nearing competition or a photo shoot)
    • contains all essential amino acids in the best possible ratios
    • bioavailability for humans is best amongst all proteins – meaning, of the amount ingested, more is likely to be absorbed. For instance, in a scoop containing 25 g of whey isolate, almost all of the protein in there, will be going into your muscle
    • lightening fast absorption; ideal post-exercise drink – helps you get into the anabolic mode almost immediately

Cons

    • pricier than whey protein concentrate – to ensure purity, the commercial production of whey necessitates use of complex filtration procedure, hence the price
    • although whey isolate will help recovery after workouts, it loses out to whey concentrate in some respects. This is so because immune boosting constituents of milk protein like alpha – lactoglobulins and lactoferrins are removed during the purification process

Whey Concentrate

Pros:

    • lot cheaper than whey isolate
    • has a slower absorption rate than whey protein isolates; thus ensures a steady state of elevated amino acids in the blood and helps you stay anabolic for longer. This also reduces the need for frequent dosing
    • slower absorption helps with absorption of other important minerals like calcium and reducing blood glucose and lipid levels
    • induces appetite suppression which may help longer fasting interval, thereby improving body composition and metabolic disease parameters
    • contains immune boosting complexes (alpha – lactoglobulins and lactoferrins) which help post-exercise muscle recovery
    • helps fight diseases – for instance, chronic hepatitis C (Elattar et al., 2010)

Cons:

    • some amount of fat will be present so not ideally suited during times when keeping body fat% down is desirable
    • if you have any degree of intolerance to milk and dairy products, you might want to forget using whey concentrate on account of its lactose content – which is missing from the more purer whey isolate

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

In conclusion, isolate and concentrate are equally good – however, your circumstances – price, training goals and lactose intolerance – should tip the scales in favour of one or the other.


Recent developments

  1. More recently, the presence of a post-workout anabolic window (of opportunity) is being increasing questioned. ‘Not only is nutrient timing research open to question in terms of applicability, but recent evidence has directly challenged the classical view of the relevance of post-exercise nutritional intake with respect to anabolism’ (Aragon and Schoenfeld, 2013). The amount and quality of protein that you consume throughout the day is, now, thought to be more important than immediate post-workout whey ingestion.
  2. BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids – leucine, isoleucine and valine) may be overrated and ‘data do not seem to support a benefit to BCCA supplementation during periods of caloric restriction’ (Dieter BP, Schoenfeld BJ and Aragon AA, 2016).

Reference List

Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ (2013). Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2013;10:5 /1550-2783-10-5.

Barile, D., Tao, N., Lebrilla, C. B., Coisson, J. D., Arlorio, M., & German, J. B. (2009). Permeate from cheese whey ultrafiltration is a source of milk oligosaccharides. Int Dairy J, 19, 524-530.

Bird, S. P., Tarpenning, K. M., & Marino, F. E. (2006). Liquid carbohydrate/essential amino acid ingestion during a short-term bout of resistance exercise suppresses myofibrillar protein degradation. Metabolism, 55, 570-577.

Cribb, P. J. & Hayes, A. (2006). Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci.Sports Exerc., 38, 1918-1925.

Cribb, P. J., Williams, A. D., Carey, M. F., & Hayes, A. (2006). The effect of whey isolate and resistance training on strength, body composition, and plasma glutamine. Int J Sport Nutr.Exerc.Metab, 16, 494-509.

Dieter BP, Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA.(2016). The data do not seem to support a benefit to BCAA supplementation during periods of caloric restriction. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition;13:21. doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0128-9.

Elattar, G., Saleh, Z., El-Shebini, S., Farrag, A., Zoheiry, M., Hassanein, A. et al. (2010). The use of whey protein concentrate in management of chronic hepatitis C virus – a pilot study. Arch.Med Sci., 6, 748-755.

Esmarck, B., Andersen, J. L., Olsen, S., Richter, E. A., Mizuno, M., & Kjaer, M. (2001). Timing of postexercise protein intake is important for muscle hypertrophy with resistance training in elderly humans. J Physiol, 535, 301-311.

Etheridge, T., Philp, A., & Watt, P. W. (2008). A single protein meal increases recovery of muscle function following an acute eccentric exercise bout. Appl.Physiol Nutr.Metab, 33, 483-488.

Etzel, M. R. (2004). Manufacture and use of dairy protein fractions. J Nutr., 134, 996S-1002S.

Ha, E. & Zemel, M. B. (2003). Functional properties of whey, whey components, and essential amino acids: mechanisms underlying health benefits for active people (review). J Nutr.Biochem., 14, 251-258.

Hakkinen, K., Pakarinen, A., Kraemer, W. J., Hakkinen, A., Valkeinen, H., & Alen, M. (2001). Selective muscle hypertrophy, changes in EMG and force, and serum hormones during strength training in older women. J Appl.Physiol, 91, 569-580.

Hoffman, J. R., Ratamess, N. A., Tranchina, C. P., Rashti, S. L., Kang, J., & Faigenbaum, A. D. (2010). Effect of a proprietary protein supplement on recovery indices following resistance exercise in strength/power athletes. Amino.Acids, 38, 771-778.

Hulmi, J. J., Ahtiainen, J. P., Kaasalainen, T., Pollanen, E., Hakkinen, K., Alen, M. et al. (2007). Postexercise myostatin and activin IIb mRNA levels: effects of strength training. Med Sci.Sports Exerc., 39, 289-297.

Hulmi, J. J., Kovanen, V., Selanne, H., Kraemer, W. J., Hakkinen, K., & Mero, A. A. (2009). Acute and long-term effects of resistance exercise with or without protein ingestion on muscle hypertrophy and gene expression. Amino.Acids, 37, 297-308.

Hulmi, J. J., Lockwood, C. M., & Stout, J. R. (2010). Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein. Nutr.Metab (Lond), 7, 51.

Josse, A. R., Tang, J. E., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2010). Body composition and strength changes in women with milk and resistance exercise. Med Sci.Sports Exerc., 42, 1122-1130.

Krissansen, G. W. (2007). Emerging health properties of whey proteins and their clinical implications. J Am Coll.Nutr., 26, 713S-723S.

Moore, D. R., Tang, J. E., Burd, N. A., Rerecich, T., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Phillips, S. M. (2009). Differential stimulation of myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis with protein ingestion at rest and after resistance exercise. J Physiol, 587, 897-904.

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Right, I am guessing y’all ‘ve heard about the Strong Lifts 5×5 Program made so famous by Mehdi. Having tried it previously I know that it works like a charm and your strength gains are phenomenal. Last time around, however, I’ve had to let go within a few weeks because of a knee niggle flaring up.

After a few weeks (20, to be precise) of shredding phase, I feel I am ready to hit  the strength mode. Hence the need to go on to the  5×5 program.

I have, however, always felt the need to put in a few more moves. Thus, the weighted pull ups, weighted parallel bar dips, weighted press ups and straight leg deadlifts find their way into my modified 5×5 program.

Those of you who don’t have a freaking clue to what 5×5 is: here a little info. It’s rather simple really – the focus is on ‘mastering the poundage’ before loading up the bar further. So, lets take squats for instance. If you was squatting with 100 Kg last week – 5 sets of 5 reps, move on to 102.5 the next time you do squats. Finish 5×5 for that weight as well. So, in every single exercise, you are increasing the weight by 2.5 Kg every week.

While that might sound easy in theory, there will always come a point where you just won’t be able to 5×5 with a certain weight. When that happens, stick with that weight till you are able to achieve 5×5 (or even go lower for a week or so); then move on to the next level.

Want to give it a shot? Here, the program:

(Remember, the workout days are Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday)

(Monday or Tuesday)

  • Squats – 5×5
  • Bench Press – 5×5
  • Bent-over Rows – 5×5

Wednesday (or Thursday)

  • Squats – 5×5
  • Weighted Pull-ups – 5×5
  • Overhead Press – 5×5

Friday (or Saturday)

  • Weighted Parallel Bar Dips – 5×5
  • Weighted Press Ups – 5×5
  • Deadlifts (Straight-legged / Romanian – alternate every week) – 5×5

What I like about the 5×5?!

  • Very realistic strength gains – also tend to get leaner as I deadlift more
  • Makes me concentrate on technique
  • Makes me master the weight
  • Most importantly, I am working on my nervous system

Happy lifting, me hearties!!!

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The first thing that’s gonna strike you about this article is the fact that is too long….hell, yeah! If you wanna know things about squatting ‘in and out’…you’ll hang in there…if not, you’ll wither away… and carry with the same miserable upper body workout like you’ve always done…So, the real aficionados, let’s get to the bottom of the squat…and I mean real ‘BOTTOM’…not just breaking parallel… 🙂

Alright, first things first; there is so much of rubbish about ‘how to squat’ that self proclaimed fitness gurus and ignorant PTs dish out! Even the internet is clogged with articles written by people who have no clue about squatting! It was time, I thought, I set things right!

Most of you must remember some guy at the gym or a personal trainer telling you how to squat. The one thing that most of these people are obsessed about is the importance of ‘not letting your knees go beyond the toes’ – as if squatting begins and ends there….?!!! Apparently, according to these knowledgeable people, keeping your knees well behind the line of the toes will avoid injuries! What injuries?! Has there ever been a study conducted which has proved conclusively that sticking your knees out beyond your toes will increase your likelihood of a knee injury? I don’t think so! Anyway, sad as it is, most people take their personal trainers’ advice as Gospel! Chances are: you did as well. So off you went trying to keep those knees behind your toes…after trying for weeks and months, you didn’t succeed. There’s a valid reason for that – its anatomically almost impossible (unless you are freak of course!).

A bit of research online and you realise that you have been lied to. Funny enough, the ones who cry hoarse about the knees are the one who have never squatted deep in their entire lives – most of them ‘half squat’ or don’t even ‘break parallel’ (a term I hate but I will talk about it in some other post)!

Real strength and conditioning coaches who’ve ‘been there and done it all’ will never even talk about the ‘knee behind the toes’ bullshit! They’d rather tell you ‘to sit back’ into the squat with ‘posterior pelvic tilt’ being the first action to begin your squat and to hold it as long as possible so you squat deep, no problem at all!

Don’t believe me?!…Well, here’s a way to confirm it – go on and Google for images of people squatting deep and you will find that rarely will any of them ever have their knees behind the level of the toes.

So, what is the correct way to squat, you might wanna ask? Here’s one of the most comprehensive guides on the internet on how to squat.

How to squat?

Squats are technically one of the most complex exercises. Having said that, if you were to go into details, you will realise that the bench press is even more difficult to perform and master. Here, I am going to talk about the correct way of squatting. Now, we all know that all a squat (as the name suggests) comprises of squatting down to the point just above where your hips start buckling under   (that is just before you start losing that lumbar arch) and then getting back up – none of the ‘breaking parallel’ bullshit’!

Stance

You can use any of the various stances for squatting: Wide stance with feet facing a bit laterally (outwards) or a more narrower stance (shoulder width stance, I prefer to call this the Romanian stance: inspired by the ‘Romanian Deadlift’).
Powerlifters, who are concerned with pushing maximum weights without worrying too much about the aesthetics of their muscles, tend to use the wide stance technique. But for bodybuilders or the majority of people concerned with fitness, I would recommend the Romanian stance.

Having said so, you would need to experiment with different stances and feet positions before settling for the one that feels most comfortable. Remember: everyone’s bones are connected differently!

Height of the bar

Always stack the bar in the rack somewhere at mid chest level. That makes it easier to lift it off the rack. You just get under it and lift it up! Many-a-times I see people stack up the bar too high. I wonder how they can shoulder press that bar about 2 inches (or perform 1 rep max of calf raise) and then place it across the traps.

Much easy to do that when you are dealing with 135lbs….not too sure what happens when you start using heavier weights?!

Lifting the bar off the rack

Always get under the bar totally , don’t lean into the bar with a split stance. I see that a lot of times. Again, if you start using heavier weights, you would not be perfectly stable to support the weight. Use a normal stance with feet close together, as in a squat.
When you lift the bar, it should come off as smoothly as possible. A lot of people have a tendency, esp. when they are pumped up, to lift the bar off with an explosion. Don’t do that: you will have to fight to stop the momentum that the bar creates if jerked off the rack violently. The struggle to control the bar makes the weight feel a lot heavier than it should. That might put you in a negative frame of mind even before you begin your first rep.

I cannot emphasis enough the importance of the smooth lifting of the bar, be it for squats or bench press. Even in the deadlift, you go pretty slow up to just under the knee. For that matter, all Olympic lifts are nice and slow to start off with – you have to be really patients up until the second pull where you really explode.

Preparation

Once you have lifted the bar off the rack, take just one step back. Feel confident and get ready to squat.

Actual act of Squatting

Key points to remember are

1. Keeping the back arched (preventing buckling under of the pelvis) through most of the movement,

2. Using the Pelvic Tilts

3. Using the ‘Pelvic Fillip’ to Bounce Back Up

Keeping you back arched

Once you learn to maintain the lumbar arch through most of the movement, you would be able to squat deep, no problem at all. A lot of research and discussion revolves around this issue. There are a lot of proponents of the ‘flexibility theory’ regarding the ability to squat deep. However, I believe recruiting your posterior muscles (read more of upper back) to stay upright plays as a crucial role, if not more, as being flexible around your hips and ankles.

If you are wondering what I mean by ‘keeping that arch through most of the movement’, there will a point where you will have to let your pelvis buckle under just enough to give you that little spring action to bounce back up; more about that in the following sections.

Using the Pelvic Tilts

Now, the most important thing to do to keep you back arched is to use the pelvic tilts to advantage. What does that mean? Well, you’ve gotta imagine that your pelvis is a bucket filled with water. An anterior pelvic tilt would involve trying to ‘pour water out of the front of the bucket’, while a posterior pelvic tilt would mean ‘pouring water out the back’.

As you initiate a squat, the first thing you need to do is to perform an anterior pelvic tilt. What this does is engages your lower back in an isometric contraction: thus maintaining the lumbar arch in addition to keeping you stable throughout the movement. Similarly, when you complete a repetition, do not forget to finish off with a posterior pelvic tilt. This has 2 advantages: it induces a peak contraction in the quads, glutes and hamstrings and also prepares you for another anterior pelvic tilt for the next repetition.

When you squat deep, your pelvis will start buckling under at a certain point. This is where it is going into a posterior pelvic tilt. So, the longer you prolong this from happening, the longer you can keep your lumbar arch. However, there is no denying that it will happen at a certain point.

Using the ‘Pelvic Fillip’ to Bounce Back Up

The transition from anterior to posterior pelvic tilt (that is buckling under of your pelvis) and then back to the anterior tilt provides you with enough impetus to rise back up. Practice this as much as you can to master the technique. I believe, it is the one key ingredient in the whole movement the importance of which, very few have ever realised.

Along with that impetus you get from the pelvic fillip, also use the throwing back of the head at the sticking point – which, incidentally,  comes a few inches above the pelvic fillip.

Visualisation Techniques in Squats

In this section, I am gonna talk about a few tricks that would help you stay upright during squats.  These may sound like a load of bollocks! However, give them a try and you will know what I mean!

Squatting is not just about movements around the ankle, knee and hip joints – it has a lot to do with isometric contraction of the entire body. Almost all muscles of the body go into an intense contraction when squatting. In fact, the more intensely you can isometrically contract your muscles, the stronger you are – it’s as simple as that!

Trick 1: for isometric contraction and stabilisation of the upper back

Visualise that the bar is a pack of noodles and you are trying to break them by bending them forwards. This action causes you chest, arms and more importantly, you upper back to go into an isometric contraction. This will make you stable and make you feel confident.

Trick 2: for isometric contraction and stabilisation of the upper back

Push those elbows as far back as possible. This again contracts the upper back. (I prefer to use the high bar, narrow grip technique).However, do not let this action stop you from having a ‘proud chest’ – that is do not let your chest sag!

Trick 3:  for isometric contraction and stabilisation of the lower extremity

Another very important thing to do is to engage you hamstrings. This can be accomplished by what I call ‘pinching the floor’ with your toes. What I mean by that is you bend you toes (even if you wearing some kind of footwear) as if you are pinching on to something with your toes! This action in combination with bending your knees by about 5 degree will immediately throw your hams into an intense isometric contraction.
Try it even as you are reading this and you will know what I mean!

Trick 4: for keeping a ‘proud chest’ throughout the movement

As you descend, visualise that there is a wall up against your chest and you are sliding your chest along the wall. This will help you keep your chest up all the time. Also, throwing your head back, pushing your chin up and looking at the ceiling (at the ‘sticking point’) as you come up will help you stay upright.

Speed at Which you Should Squat

The squat is a very rhythmic movement. Everyone has a different speed at which they can squat effectively. However, I’d recommend a nice and slow speed – works for most people. The key is not to be rushed!  Descend under control to a the point where you feel your pelvis is starting to buckle under. Use the pelvic fillip, squeeze you glutes and bounce back up. When you finish the movement, do not forget to go into a posterior pelvic tilt (when you are upright). This will not only ram it in as far as the quads, glutes and hams are concerned but will also prepare you for the next rep (where you have to start by going into another anterior pelvic tilt).

So, enough with the benching, you guys…let us get busy at the squat rack! Put all of what we have learnt today into practice. Remember, the squat is one lift which will give you immense satisfaction, esp. when you start mastering it! And, don’t forget: it is not just a leg exercise…it’s a whole body exercise!!!

To conclude, squatting is more about sitting back into your pelvis whilst maintaining an upright upper body (akin to sitting in an office chair: you never start to go down with your knees sticking in the front, do you?!). If you do that, you will stop worrying about where your knees are.

Hope this article inspires you to squat deeper and heavier and also answers a lot of doubts! If you do have any queries yet, gimme a shout. Also, please do not forget to leave a feedback…

Those interested in learning to squat real deep may find this article a good read!

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